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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

BTSF Blogging Advice

In addition to the commenting and submission guidelines available in the above tabs, let's pause from our normal routine to offer a bit of advice about blogging itself. Readers have sometimes asked for tips/advice on writing and gaining traffic, so included below are some basic habits followed at By their strange Fruit (BTSF).  If you are feeling ambitious, there are more in-depth/time-intensive tweaks that can be made, but these things are a great place to start. Take it or leave it.

Tips are presented the following categories:
Post Formatting
Site Design

What practices have you found helpful in your own blogging? Any suggestions for BTSF?

See Also:
Submissions Guidelines
Commenting Guidelines
About Us

  • Content! Content! Content! 
    • New and loyal readers come from solid content. Nothing substitutes.
    • Consistently posting at a regular time or day helps builds expectation from readers and keeps you in a disciplined routine.
  • Don’t assume your audience knows jargon terms or relevant context. 
    • BTSF has both secular social justice readers, as well as Christian new-to-social-justice readers. 
  • The average time readers stay on a post is 90 seconds and 500 words. 
    • Try to keep posts as close to 500 words as possible, recognizing that anything beyond this limit has a significantly smaller chance of being read. 
    • If you can say 'initially' instead of 'from the start,' do it!
    • The nuanced topics covered on BTSF often require that post must be stretched to 700 words, but anything approaching 1000 words is best broken into a series of articles. 
    • The longer the post, the stronger the content must be to justify it
  • Use short paragraphs (~3 sentences) and short sentences. 
    • If a sentence has more than two clauses, break it apart.
  • Avoid starting posts with an 'I' statement or personal story. 
    • Though they may be good additions later in the post, readers will tune out if used as openers.
  • State your main point right up front, and then expound on it. 
    • Don't hold it back or build up to it. 
    • Readers typically decide to stay or go within the first two sentences of an article. 
  • Include a question, or an invitation to comment, at the end of your post.
    • A thought-provoking question will engage readers in your content, and increase dialogue in the comments section.
  • Do not overly repeat your points--it actually dilutes a message. 
    • If you feel you aren't getting your meaning across, recombine and reduce (rather reiterating and rephrasing). 
    • A common habit is conjoining similar words that don't add much addition meaning
      •  "I was enthusiastic and excited"

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Post Formatting
  • Link to relevant background info, resources, and citations often and early
  • 'F pattern' for reading content
    • However, make sure they are always to worth-while content, and not just fluff.
    • Including links helps to provided background for new readers that haven't been reading all along.
    • Links are also valuable in increasing Google search hits (they ranks high in Google's algorithm for 'relevance') 
    • Link both within your site and externally
      • BTSF includes a 'see also' section at the bottom of each articles/posts, to direct readers to other areas of the site. 
      • This practice avoids good posts going 'dead' as they get buried on the homepage history. 
  • Keywords should be mentioned in the first paragraph and in bold. 
    • This is one way Google determines whether the post matches any give search term. 
    • Bolding key phrases also helps those scanning the page to stay engaged.
      • Some readers find this practice annoying, but I've found the benefits out weight the costs
  • Keywords should also be in the title (which should have an < h2 > html format).
    • Keywords in titles count way more than cleverness for courting traffic via search hits. 
  • Pictures help a lot in keeping readers to the end. But be careful to avoid clutter or extended page length.  
    • Avoid hokey or 'stock' images.
  • Along those lines, keep the 'F' pattern in mind when shaping a page.
    • I strategically place pictures and important text to draw the eye to continue reading.

Site Design
  • It's nice to have a distinct landing page that clearly explains what your site is about. 
    • This is the page to which your main URL links, and may be separate from the 'home page' that shows new posts.
    • You may even design several landing pages for folks specifically linking from twitter, facebook etc. 
  • Keep you homepage/landing page clean and free of clutter. 
    • A visitor's eyes should be able to come to rest on the two most important items within seconds.
    • A visitors focus will direct their clicks. Users that feel overwhelmed will just leave. 
  • When someone hits your site, no matter what sub-page they land on, they should be able to quickly determine what you are about.
    • Show your site to people totally unfamiliar with it, give them 60 seconds to explore, and then have them tell you what their take away message is. This exercises can be really insightful.
  • Registering your site with Google Analytics is a helpful way to track which are your effective traffic sources/key words. 
    • I like to keep 1/3 of traffic from search engines, 1/3 from social media, and 1/3 from direct links, with an nice balance between new and returning visitors.
    • Google Analytics will also reports the location of viewers, how long they stayed on a page, where they linked from to get there etc.
    • Don't get bogged down in the numbers
      • Like church attendance, it's a measure of successful practices, not the goal itself. 
    • For what it's worth, Google, Blogger, and stats have never matched each other (though they trend in similar patters). I figure actual viewership is some average between them.
    • Monetizing based on hit counts and ad revenues is an options, but know that you have little control over who advertises and how it will reflect on your content
      • BTSF stays ad-free so as not to add distraction or bias to the messages being conveyed

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  • Once a post goes live, distribute the link in multiple venues:  TwitterRSS feedemail subscription, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Gchat, Google+, Facebook. 
    • These are the ones that have been most effective for BTSF so far. I haven't had much success with blog carnivals, digg, etc.
  • Much new readership comes from staying active in other blogospheres, gaining referrals, contacts, and link backs. 
    • o Commenting on other blogs is a good way to connect with other ideas
      • HOWEVER:  Don't do it unless you have something intelligent and relevant to say!
        • Readers easily see through even subtle blog pushing. 
  • The above point is DOUBLY true for Twitter. As cynical as I was, BTSF has gotten tons of new traffic from it (thanks guys!). 
    • It is easy to find the narrow niches you may be targeting and then to follow up with that group. 
    • Also, new collaborators/resources have come through twitter, letting me know who else is out there with similar missions, what works for them, and helping connect me to their new ideas.
    • Someday, I'll do a separate post on effective tweeting...
  • In emails or promotional material, I like to use to direct to specific posts.
    • Obviously, this is imperative for twitter in reducing the character count, but it also streamlines emails to keep people reading.
    • Best of all, each individualized link comes with stats, so one can tell which items are popular, and which promotion forums are most effective.
      • I can create a two links for one post, send one out via email and one via twitter. Then, actively notice which one brings in more viewers.
      • Similarly, I can give a specific person a unique link ( and be able to tell whether she actually clicked it or not, or if she forwards it to others.
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WHEW! That's a lot. Take it or leave it. Hopefully it's helpful.

See Also:
Submissions Guidelines
Commenting Guidelines
About Us

1 comment:

  1. Some folks scoff at ‘visibility
    techniques’ like SEO. And on the one hand, I totally get relate to that point.
    We never want to serve the hit counts (any more than idolizing church
    attendance numbers), certainly never when it means deluding the message. 


    But, things like SEO and
    increased readership are the tools with which we preach in digital ministry.
    Unless a blog simply exists for personal reasons (or within a specific
    group/congregation), it doesn't serve its purpose to hide the light under a
    bushel by making it hard for the internet world to find us. If our ideas are
    important they should be disseminated (and I feel the both the Gospel and the
    multicultural church are ideas that should be digitally spread). The Church has
    always had various means of evangelism. SEO etc is just the tool in the digital


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